Nassau police and prosecutors will announce Monday the arrests of more than 100 men on charges that in recent years have gone largely unprosecuted in the county: soliciting prostitutes.
According to law enforcement sources, a monthlong sting beginning in April resulted in the arrests of 104 men across the county.
Each of the men allegedly answered an online advertisement for an escort, then went to a hotel, where they met an undercover officer posing as a prostitute. The men were videotaped as they agreed to pay for sex and were promptly arrested, law enforcement sources said.
"Cops have historically focused on going after the vulnerable and often exploited women at the heart of this industry rather than the johns who fuel it," said a source close to the case. "The D.A. and the police commissioner are trying to find a smarter, fairer, more deterrent balance to this equation."
This is by far the largest bust of people patronizing prostitutes in Nassau in recent years, according to state Division of Criminal Justice Services statistics.
In the previous decade, a total of 39 people had been arrested on those charges, statistics say.
The rush of arrests mirrors an overall increase in prostitution-related arrests by police this year, according to law enforcement sources and crime statistics.
Last year, 26 prostitution cases were resolved in the county. This year to date, 140 arrests have been made.
Lawyers across the county say their clients, largely professionals such as engineers, doctors and lawyers, are on pins and needles waiting to know if Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice will release their names and mug shots at a news conference Monday. Law enforcement sources say they will.
"It's vindictive," said defense lawyer Dennis Lemke, who represents one of the men arrested. "These individuals have been humiliated, and now their families will be humiliated, too."
A law enforcement source said, "It's outrageous to suggest that she [Rice] should give unprecedented anonymity to a group of guys just because they've got good jobs, families and high-priced lawyers. The justice system doesn't work that way, thankfully."
Brian Griffin, who says he represents more than one man who was arrested, said he believes the men were inappropriately lured to commit their crimes.
"This is a manufactured crime," said Griffin, of Garden City. "You can't solicit a prostitute who doesn't exist. At the end of the day the charges will not survive legal scrutiny."
Sources close to the case said Internet sites are "the new street corner," when it comes to prostitution. People troll for ads for escorts and massages, then meet sex workers at hotels or other locations. They did not disclose the name or location of the hotel used in the bust.
The sting took place on about seven occasions over two months. Law enforcement sources said all the people arrested were men.
Police did post an ad targeting women as clients, but no one responded to it, a source said.
The undercover police officers posing as prostitutes were mostly women, but one was a man, they said.